· By Dylan Hayes
New Romantic > Fruity, Bold, and In Your Face
'New Romantic' is our 4.0% Raspberry and Lime Berliner Weisse. It's packed with a fistful of zingy and zappy raspberries in every can, delivering a delightful face puckering punch.
'New Romantic' is an homage to and a reminder of the audacious, flamboyant, and eccentric New Romantic subculture that emerged in late 1970’s London. Just like that scene, our New Romantic Berliner Weisse is fruity, bold, and in your face.
The beer pours a gorgeous electric pink, reminiscent of the colours you might have seen on clothes and makeup of these young nightclubbers.
But who were the New Romantics? Where did they come from? And what influence did they have? In this blog, our millennial (and Australian) Brand Manager, Dylan Hayes, considers these questions.
So, ruffle up your sleeves and get your eyeliner ready - because we’re about to take a dive into this fabulous and fascinating era of London history.
Punk Beginnings >
London in the 1970’s had a reputation of being a drab and miserable place. The post-war boom was over, and the country was in recession. The IRA were regularly bombing the city. The 'Winter of Discontent' saw coal miners, nurses, garbage collectors, and gravediggers go on strike. There were fuel shortages and electricity was rationed to commercial users to just three days a week.
The election of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister in 1979, saw the strengthening of austerity policies and the acceleration of deindustrialisation, resulting in mass-unemployment, urban decay, and violent riots on the streets of the Britain.
By 1976, punk culture had arrived in London via New York and found a receptive UK audience. The Roxy Club opened in Covent Garden and gave a home to this new stripped back sound which soundtracked the raw and gritty reality that reflected the experiences of young Londoners.
Dressed in studded leather and ripped denim, punk was a tough looking but inclusive culture that embraced a DIY aesthetic. However, by 1978, the novelty was beginning to wear off and disillusioned people were beginning to splinter off to start a new scene.
The Cult with No Name, or the Peacock Punks >
The New Romantic 'movement' can be understood as both a continuation of punk, as well as its antithesis.
The scene started with the opening of Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s ‘Bowie Nights’ on Tuesday evenings at Billy’s Club; underneath a brothel at 69 Dean Street in Soho. Unlike punk, these events weren’t about live music - the New Romantics were more interested in playing records, posing, and being seen.
Rusty Egan started these nights because there was nobody playing the music he wanted to hear in nightclubs. In doing so, he inadvertently crafted the concept of a club night and his selections of tracks from bands like The Normal, Kraftwerk, Sylvester, Roxy Music and (of course) Bowie made him one of London’s first celebrity DJ’s.
Steve Strange was the scene’s arbitrator of cool. His fashion taste established a platform for the 80’s as they were about to happen – in an over the top and decadent way.
If Strange didn’t like the way you looked, you weren’t getting into the club - creativity won over celebrity (he famously refused entry to Mick Jagger). Strange wanted to curate a haven where individuals could express themselves without the threat of violence from the people who didn't understand them.
The over-the top, outrageous fashions reacted against the violence and decay on the streets of the capital by encouraging extravagant explorations in expression which pushed boundaries with elaborate hair, make-up and clothes.
These party-goers gained attention from the media who wanted to give the movement a name. A big attraction for members of the scene was that the group subverted norms and defied labels. If they were to call themselves anything, it might have been ‘The Cult with No Name’. Early articles would call them the 'Peacock Punks, the ‘Herald Angels’, and ‘Dandy Dilettantes’.
Ultimately, it was the 'New Romantics' that stuck. Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in Europe and planted rooted in Britain during in the 18th century. The Romantics emphasize inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual. The New Romantics played with themes of Victorian Dandyism, while leaning toward the future with a touch of modern-day technologically amplified narcissism.
The Bowie Nights at Billy’s Club attracted people like Boy George, who became known in the industry after working there in the cloakroom. The DJ, model and “first lady of London’s fashion scene” Princess Julia became the New Romantic It-Girl.
The teenaged androgynous singer, Marilyn, caught the attention of artist Derek Jarman who featured them in his short film/music video for Marianne Faithfull ‘Broken English’. The style-icon Scarlett Cannon, who transformed every Tuesday night into a new art statement.
When the management of Billy’s Club wanted to increase the 50p entry fee and start charging an exorbitant £2 for drinks at the bar – Egan and Strange said enough was enough, and moved their party over to Blitz Club.
Blitz Club >
Blitz Club was a wine bar at 4 Great Queen Street, near Holborn station in Covent Garden. It was designed with a Parisian bistro-feel, and decorated with World War Two propaganda posters on bare brick walls.
The buzz around the New Romantics attracted the art and fashion students from the nearby Central School of Art & Design (now Central Saint Martins) which was then located on Southampton Row. This precocious and fashionable crowd helped give this scene yet another name, The Blitz Kids.
In 1980, Berman and Nathans, who were then the most highly regarded costumiers in the world, decided to sell their warehouse of theatre costumes.
These elaborate Dickensian, Elizabethan, Pirate, and Sci-Fi outfits were sold for as cheap as 50p per item. The Central School art students and the New Romantic clubbers made the most of the period fashions, and soon the dancefloor was full of colour and frills.
As their club night grew bigger, Rusty Egan felt the pressure to keep the playlist engaging and innovative. He decided to travel to Germany to try and meet Kraftwerk.
Incredibly, he met Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider at a night club in Düsseldorf and told them songs like their ‘Showroom Dummies’ were filling dancefloors in London.
Steve Strange wanted the Blitz Club to be filled with elitist “pioneers of creativity who looked like roving works of art, not drunk kids full of beer”.
This would influence the types of live acts that would eventually play at the venue. The Islington-based Spandau Ballet transformed their original sound, and embraced electronic music to become the Blitz Club’s first house band.
The name ‘Spandau Ballet’ was suggested by their friend, culture writer Robert Elms, after graffiti he had seen while travelling in Germany with Rusty Egan.
The Spandau Ballet boys brought a futuristic sound of synthesized electronic dance music that accompanied lead singer Tony Hadley’s Sinatra-esque vocal melodies to their debut gig at Blitz Club on December 5 ,1979, that had Billy Idol and Siouxsie Sioux in the audience.
In mid-1980, David Bowie graced the club with a visit, and asked Steve Strange and three other Blitz regulars to appear in the video for his single "Ashes to Ashes". This seal of approval helped propel the New Romantic sound into the mainstream.
The music video featured scene-icon Princess Julia miming the spoken French in the song. 'Fade to Grey' becoming a Top 10 hit in the UK, a Top 5 hit in five countries, and no. 1 in West Germany and Switzerland. The New Romantics had reached the mainstream.
In July 1981, Leeds band Soft Cell released 'Tainted Love', a cover of the Northern Soul hit by Gloria Jones which had originally been recorded in 1964. It went to Number 1 in 17 countries, including the United Kingdom - where it was the second best selling single of 1981.
Camden Palace >
In 1982, Egan and Strange had found their mainstream fame with Visage.
They moved their party to a bigger location - taking over The Camden Palace (now KOKO) and giving London a hone for the electronica, dance and new wave music that would shape the 80’s. This was the first real glimpse of the future of British club-culture.
In 1983, Madonna played her first London gig at The Camden Palace signalling that the world of pop music had fully embraced the style and ethos of the New Romantics.
By the mid-80’s, the scene had continued to evolve. Egan and Strange invited Colin Faver, Evil Eddie Richards and Noel Watson to begin hosting their ‘Delirium’ club night, which introduced Chicago house music to London audiences.
These nights would morph into the beginning of Acid House, eventually moving to clubs like Battlebridge and Bagley's near King’s Cross (in what is Coal Drops Yard today) – where the cutting-edge trendsetters of the London fashion, art, and music worlds followed.
The New Romantic Legacy >
The New Romantics were a group of rebels who rejected the mainstream and embraced creativity and individuality. They created a new, exciting subculture that captured the spirit of the times and inspired a new wave of fashion and music.
The legacy of the New Romantic movement lives on today, and continues to inspire people to break away from the norm and embrace their own unique style.
You can buy Two Tribes 'New Romantic' Raspberry and Lime Berliner Weisse, here.